Palo Alto Networks, today announced new functionality that enables enterprises to control Facebook Social Plug-ins, helping to ease some of the growing privacy concerns associated with facebook’s connection to third party Web sites.
Facbook Social plugins let users see what their friends have liked, commented on or shared on sites across the web. While the plugins are designed so that no personal data is shared with the sites on which they appear, there are several other privacy concerns surrounding the third party connection services.
For example, when a user clicks “Like” or “Recommend” buttons, the user is making a public connection, which anyone can see, and on Facebook, a story will appear on the users profile and may appear in their friends’ News Feeds, just as if they had liked something on Facebook itself.
In some cases, when facebook users make a connection to a real world entity, such as a book, movie or athlete, their likes and recommendations become a part of their profile in the same way as the connections you make with Pages on Facebook. They will appear under the users “Likes and Interests” section of their profile.
Facebook users in enterprises are susceptible to having their confidential data shared with third parties due to these social plugins and the misleading and confusing ways which facebook collects and displays user data through interactions on third party sites.
The new default Facebook privacy settings can share private and corporate information with advertisers and other third parties. In enterprises, this policy has major implications, as there is no central way for IT security teams to protect their users from the unknown and – in almost all cases – unwanted privacy impact, which involves the sharing of behavioral and website information with Facebook and its advertising customers.
Palo Alto Networks’ new App-ID allows IT security teams to protect their Facebook users against the undesired data sharing while transparently preserving Facebook functionality and not breaking the functionality of other websites that rely on the Facebook Social Plug-ins.
Palo Alto Networks’ technology provides visibility and control over Facebook-related functionality, users and content using three identification functions:
• App-ID identifies exactly which Facebook functionality is running on the network, as well as the associated risks, so administrators can deploy comprehensive application usage control policies for inbound and outbound traffic.
• User-ID integrates with Microsoft Active Directory and LDAP directories to link Facebook use to users and groups – not just IP addresses – for visibility, policy creation, logging and reporting.
• Content-ID combines a real-time threat prevention engine with a comprehensive URL database to detect and block a wide range of threats, limit unauthorized transfer of files and data, enabling customers to scan permitted Facebook traffic for threats and confidential data.
“This is another example of the safe enablement that customers of Palo Alto Networks can uniquely take advantage of; reaping the benefit of social applications, yet mitigating the risks,” said Rene Bonvanie, vice president of worldwide marketing at Palo Alto Networks. “For example, an organization might want to enable customer service representatives to use Facebook, the chat function and the messages function, but disable Facebook Applications and Social Plug-ins to mitigate productivity and privacy concerns.”
In March, Palo Alto Networks released a report showing how heavily regulated industries are letting social networking apps run rampant within organizations. The results of the report showed that, on average, 28 social networking and p2p applications are in use within healthcare and financial service firms. As these organizations continue to rely on social media applications for business marketing and collaboration they need to pay attention to the risks associated with them.